I never thought I’d write this.
Acting has been with me my entire life.
Grateful doesn’t even cut it. I don’t know what I would have done without it.
But as I write this, having cancelled my Spotlight membership and ended my relationship with my acting agent, I have never felt freer.
So I’d like to express my thanks and have a go at articulating how I’ve arrived at this point.
I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a child. I had 19 surgeries. And the message I received was ‘you’re special’. I certainly felt it being at Great Ormond Street and feeling different to the other kids in my class.
At some point I developed a burning desire to feel this specialness all the time.
And I discovered pretty quickly that wearing a tuxedo and gallivanting around the kitchen screaming ‘shaken not stirred’ whilst my parents had company was a great way to feel that specialness.
Alas the performer in me was born.
And the dream of becoming a successful actor began.
And that ‘performer’ has stayed with me my entire life. One way of characterising the ‘performer’ is: an incessant desire for attention and validation that manifests itself in overt and (sometimes) subtle ways.
Overt way: writing a one man show.
Subtle way: craftily navigating conversations with others so that they revolve around my latest achievement or my new 5km running PB.
The dream of being a ‘successful actor’ was a dream of being someone important. Someone worthy of love, who belongs.
“If I could just get my big break then I’d feel different to the way I feel now. My life would be amazing.”Will’s mindset throughout his career.
This story of ‘success’ I attached myself too was a double edged sword. During my turbulent teen years it gave me something to hang on too amidst the depression. Heading into University this story gave me a sense of purpose. For the first time I had something to fully commit too. I cut down on the partying, really focused and actually felt like I achieved something.
I worked my bloody ass off because I needed it.
(I see now I was driven more by fear of failure than I was by love.)
And then I left University and entered the big wide world.
And suddenly this dream of ‘being an actor’ manifested as an incessant daily nag of: ‘I need to be more productive’.
Matching up to this idea of ‘being an actor’ became the most important thing in my life.
“I MUST ACHIEVE THIS DREAM AT ANY COST.”Will’s inner critic.
And if I didn’t match up to this standard – I wasn’t doing enough.
In other words: I was not enough.
So over the next 6 years I threw everything I had into the industry in an attempt to live up to this standard. I did everything every workshop on career progression taught me: I started a theatre company, sent 1000’s of emails, attended many acting workshops, saw many shows, thought of a witty twitter bio, wrote plays + short-films, did a tonne of student films, developed a killer showreel, performed in some work I’m really proud of and got nominated for an award.
But even after giving everything I had and experiencing what felt like real career progression my mental health didn’t improve.
It just got worse.
The Start of Letting Go
At some point I realised:
Prosperity at the cost of inner peace, isn’t prosperity.
I had reached a point where my suffering overwhelmed my fear of letting go of the dream. So I started to prioritise my wellbeing above my acting career.
And when I did this I started to feel THE BEST I’VE EVER FELT.
I then went and did some acting and something had shifted. I was shocked. I couldn’t unsee how rooted in my desire for attention and validation my relationship with acting had been. There was so much more to it than ‘I love my craft’ there was something far more self-seeking and unhealthy underneath what I was telling myself. And once I glimmered this I knew if I was to grow I needed to let go of this story I’d been attached to my entire life.
I’m no longer that kid anymore in the James Bond tux sipping on a fake martini.
I love that little guy and acting will always have a place in my heart.
But it’s time to say goodbye. For I need to figure out who I am without it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean goodbye forever.
I’m open to whatever the future holds.
But if I do come back to you acting…
it won’t come at the cost of my wellbeing.
I really do love ya.
Bye for now.
See you on the other side…